20110501 - Osaka - Chuo Ward - Dotonbori
Dōtonbori (道頓堀, pronounced [doːtomboɽi]) is one of the principal tourist destinations in Osaka, Japan. It is a single street, running alongside the Dōtonbori canal between the Dōtonboribashi Bridge and the Nipponbashi Bridge in the Namba ward of Osaka. A former pleasure district, Dōtonbori is famous for its historic theatres (all gone now), its shops and restaurants, and its many neon and mechanised signs, including snack/candy manufacturer Glico's giant electronic display of a runner crossing the finish line.
Dōtonbori traces its history back to 1612, when a local entrepreneur, Dōton Yasui, began expanding the tiny Umezu River, which ran east to west, hoping to increase commerce in the region by connecting the two branches of the Yohori River, which ran north to south, with a canal. Dōton’s project was interrupted when he died defending Toyotomi Hideyori in the ill-fated Siege of Osaka, but his cousins finished the canal in 1615. The new lord of Osaka Castle, Tadaki Matsudaira, named the canal and avenue beside it Dōtonbori ("bori" from "hori", meaning "canal"), even though Doton had been on the losing side during the siege.
The character of Dōtonbori became defined in 1621 when the newly minted Tokugawa Shogunate instituted urban planning, designating Dōtonbori as the entertainment district of Osaka. By 1662 the avenue boasted six Kabuki theatres and five Bunraku theatres, as well as the unique Takeda Karakuri mechanical puppet theatre. Many restaurants and cafes were built to cater to the flood of tourists and entertainment-seekers pouring nightly into Dōtonbori.
Over the years, declining interest in traditional forms of entertainment led to the closing of most of Dōtonbori's original attractions. Its five remaining theatres were bombed and destroyed during World War II.